Requirements to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California

July 29, 2022 Posted In Wrongful Death

To successfully pursue a wrongful death case in California, there are requirements that your claim must meet.  

Requirements to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California

Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim in California

To bring a wrongful death claim in California, the following elements must be established:

  • The death of an individual occurred.
  • The death was caused by another party’s negligence or intentional harm. For example, a family cannot sue a doctor because they were unhappy with their loved one’s care unless the death was caused by medical negligence. Alternatively, claims can be brought for intentional harm (e.g., shooting or stabbing the victim). 
  • Surviving family members of the deceased suffered financial losses as a result of the death. (e.g., medical bills, lost financial support, loss of love, companionship, etc.)

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 et seq., a wrongful death claim can be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, on behalf of, or by any of the following survivors:

  • Surviving spouse of the deceased
  • Domestic partner of the deceased
  • Surviving children of the deceased, which includes biological, fully adopted, or stepchildren. If the children are minors, the court will appoint a guardian to pursue the claim on their behalf.
  • A dependent minor who lived with the deceased for at least six months.
  • If none of the above family members survives the deceased, anyone who would be entitled to the deceased’s property by California’s intestate succession laws (which may include surviving parents or siblings). 

To understand how this law applies to your claim, it is best to consult a wrongful death lawyer. 

Time Limit on Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Each state has statutes of limitations in place to encourage victims to seek legal resolutions within a reasonable length of time. Once too much time passes after an event, evidence begins to disappear, witnesses’ memory fades, and details can be too challenging to trace. California has a statute of limitations that sets a maximum time limit in which a person can take legal action in California after a wrongful death. Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 CCP, surviving family members have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim. If you miss the deadline, you will be barred from recovering compensation. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a person’s death was caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the deceased’s death. 

An Attorney Can Help

Wrongful death claims can be incredibly complex, and the last thing you need at this incredibly sad time is a legal battle. Consider hiring a skilled and trusted Riverside Wrongful Death Attorney to handle your case. Many accept wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not have to pay any money upfront. They will take care of litigation costs and will only get paid if you do.

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